Leaders of Learning Class

I love learning, and it can be even more enlightening to learn about learning.

An excellent example of learning about learning is the HarvardX class Leaders of Learning, offered through Although it quickly became apparent that the class was intended for educators, I decided to complete it anyway.

My final grade was 99% and I earned an Honor Code Certificate (pdf) for successfully passing it.

Modes of Learning

The class closely examined four modes of learning, based on the various combinations of these two independent qualities:

Collective or Individual
We can learn either in a group or alone
Hierarchical or Distributed
We can learn in either a formal environment, where the reward is a grade, perhaps leading to a degree of some sort, or in an informal environment, where the only reward is the additional knowledge

There are certainly other ways to look at learning, and at first these terms can seem a bit foreign. But this is how we analyzed the act of learning, and how education is changing, in this class.

Analyzing Four Ways to Learn

Because these qualities are independent, we can view the various combinations of them as quadrants in a table:

Collective Individual
Hierarchical Hierarchical-Collective learning often takes place in a classroom in a public school or at an accredited college or university Hierarchical-Individual learning takes place when a more knowledgeable person teaches a student one-on-one, for example, when tutoring
Distributed Distributed-Collective learning is the learning children might experience in a playground, when learning a sport, or what adults experience at meetups and conferences Distributed-Individual learning takes place when we read a book, on our own, to gain the knowledge therein and nothing more

The class began with a self-assessment. On the initial assessment, I scored much higher in the Distributed-Individual quadrant (73%) than I did in the others (20-30%).

The assessment was accurate because, since graduating from college, I have been mostly keeping up-to-date with technical advancements on my own, specifically by reading O’Reilly books.

Venturing into Other Quadrants

The class encouraged self-awareness and flexibility in crossing into other quadrants.

The class was intended for educators, and stressed that these four quadrants represent the playing field. With the internet changing everything, it’s important to know what your strengths and options are.

As a life-long learner, it’s also easy to see that flexibility on my part can lead to new and improved learning opportunities and experiences. In fact, this class was one of the things that encouraged me to start going to meetups and taking more MOOCs.

My First MOOC

The first Massively Open Online Class(MOOC) I took was The Science of Everyday Thinking, offered by The University of Queensland, Austrialia through

I completed the class with a score of 84%, earning an Honor Code Certificate (pdf).

Constant Negativity

I grew up with a lot of negativity, and the echoes of those words continue to haunt me. I know that I am not alone in my struggle with these recurring thoughts, and work every day to fight them off, yet they persist.

This, my constant curiosity, and an enduring interest in psychology, led to my interest in this class. The time I spent in it was well rewarded.

Thinking and Our Biases

The class presented a wealth of information from a variety of people, but repeatedly referenced the book Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. The result of decades of work, his book earned several awards, and the instructors referred to “System 1” (fast, subconscious) and “System 2” (slow, calculating) thinking throughout the class.

The class also discussed some of the unconscious many cognitive biases that affect our decisions, if we are not careful and take the time to think slowly. A complete list of these can be a bit overwhelming; it would be a mistake to let this fact deter you from learning about them, and how they can limit us from fulfilling our potential.

A Great Start!

The class was a great start to taking more, both at edX and at Coursera. As I later learned in the Leaders of Learning class I took at HarvardX, the internet is changing how we learn, opening up grand opportunities for all of us!